Monday, August 27, 2007

Mrs. International works with Heart Gallery of America -- her mom is a foster care alumna

Pageant winner helps children
Lakewood's Mrs. International raises awareness about adoption, foster care

Pringle, Adam. Long Beach Press, August 26, 2007.

Although pageants often have a reputation of focusing on superficiality, recent Mrs. International winner Rebekah Negrete has more noble intentions.

The 32-year-old Lakewood native, who was awarded the Mrs. International title in July, is using her crown to raise awareness about adoption and foster care.

She is working with the Heart Gallery of America, a nonprofit organization that presents photos and biographies of children in foster care so they can be considered for adoption.

"I don't need a title to continue to volunteer, since I would be doing that no matter what," she said. "But it helps open up more doors than if I was just going as Rebekah Negrete."

Negrete describes herself as a "generational byproduct" of the foster care system, because her mother was a foster child and her parents had different foster children in their home.

Her sister adopted a child three years ago, and now she and her husband are looking to start their family through the foster care system.

"Early on, I saw the importance of making sure that we take care of these kids that need families, too," she said.

Negrete currently works on the board of directors for the Heart Gallery chapter in Los Angeles, and she is preparing to travel around the country and eventually worldwide to promote the Heart Gallery's efforts in helping children find foster homes.

"Everywhere I go, I try to put Heart Gallery out there so that more people are aware that it's there, and hopefully it will bring more exposure to these kids that need to be placed in homes," she said.

Negrete participated in a number of pageants beginning when she was 18, including numerous Miss America pageants, and she saw the Mrs. International pageant as a perfect opportunity to promote her cause.

"I knew that since this pageant is really concerned about trying to help a woman promote her platform, this would be more up my alley than a pageant more focused on beauty,"
she said.

According to the Mrs. International Web site, the pageant was developed to "promote today's married women, their accomplishments, and commitment to family and marriage."

Despite her newly awarded status as Mrs. International, life hasn't changed much for Negrete: She still lives in Lakewood, where she continues to work as a children's etiquette teacher.

Eventually, she wants to see more Heart Gallery chapters established nationwide, and she is helping establish a Heart Gallery in Fresno County. She is also looking to help foster children in her community in the near future.

"While I may not meet these children face-to-face, I'll know that I had a part in helping them find permanent homes," she said. "That's a very satisfying thing for me."

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